Spiders often have a bad reputation because of how terrifying they look and because some are venomous when they bite us. Some people even have arachnophobia — an extreme fear of spiders. But these arachnids are not all-bad. In fact, they can be beneficial to us. Here are seven of the biggest benefits of spiders to humans — and the world.
7 Benefits of spiders to humans
1. Spiders help with household pest control
Spiders are voracious predators. They consume about 400 to 800 million tons of insects and other invertebrates annually. Thankfully, many of their prey include common household pests, such as cockroaches, flies, and mosquitoes. They also prey on pests that are hard to see and difficult to eliminate, like bed bugs and mites.
One thing that makes spiders great natural pest controllers is their size. They can squeeze through the tiniest cracks, gaps, and holes where these pests can hide. This is particularly useful against cockroaches as these pests have very flexible exoskeletons that allow them to hide in the most inaccessible parts of your home.
Many of these prey also spread diseases — similar to how flies can spread salmonellosis and mosquitoes can spread dengue and malaria. You can say that spiders indirectly prevent the spread of these diseases as they prevent the animals that can give you these diseases from thriving.
2. Spiders play an important role in the food chain
Eat and be eaten — that’s the circle of life. Spiders eat and control the population of common household pests like cockroaches, flies, and mosquitoes. And they are also eaten by larger animals, including birds, frogs, lizards, and even other spiders.
The food chain is important because it helps maintain the balance of ecosystems and promote biodiversity in a particular environment. Look at spiders. Without them, insects and other pests that they prey on can thrive too well and cause problems. These pests can end up on your property. And without spiders, the larger animals that rely on them for sustenance can die out, reducing their possible benefits around you, such as how birds aid in forest restoration, pollination, and seed dispersal.
In short, spiders play an important role in the environment. Their absence can lead to ripple effects that can cause more harm than good.
3. Spiders are beneficial because they promote biodiversity outside your home
You may think that biodiversity and the food chain are non-issues to you because they don’t affect you personally. But you couldn’t be more wrong. Look at biodiversity, for instance. It’s particularly important if you have your own lot, and you have a garden, lawn, or yard. Without biodiversity, a few species may thrive too well outside of your home, causing an infestation. Biodiversity and the food chain help keep all animals in check. When they eat and are eaten, it puts the ecosystem in balance.
Spiders are particularly important in biodiversity and the food chain because they are present in diverse ecosystems. You can find them in deserts, forests, grasslands, underwater, and yes, even around your property.
4. Spider silk
Spiders spin protein fiber that they use to create egg sacs and weave spider webs. This is called spider silk. Researchers are taking advantage of the properties of spider silk for the benefit of humanity.
Spider silk is currently being studied as a construction material, medicine, and natural pesticide. It has great potential as a construction material because of its incredible strength. On a weight-for-weight basis, it’s even stronger than steel.
It has great potential as a medicine because of its biocompatibility and biodegradability. It can protect and release medications in a controlled manner. And it has great potential as a natural pesticide because of its capability to trap insects.
Construction is not the only area of engineering where spider silk is useful. It’s also useful in the areas of aerospace, electronics, and textiles.
Researchers are looking into spider silk’s flexibility and lightness to create stronger but lighter airbags and parachutes. They are looking into its biodegradability and thermal conductivity to create sustainable electronics. And they are looking into its lightness and strength to create fabrics with advanced functionality, such as athletic wear and bulletproof vests.
5. Spiders help us develop medicines — a massive benefit to humans
Researchers believe that spider silk has tremendous potential in the medical industry. They believe it can help in artificial ligaments and tendons, nerve regeneration, and just general wound healing. It’s great for artificial ligaments and tendons because of its flexibility and strength. In fact, they already have prototypes.
It’s great for nerve regeneration because of promising results in animal studies, but further studies need to be conducted. And it’s great for general wound healing because of its antimicrobial properties.
6. In some countries spiders are a source of food
Eating spiders may be unusual for some people — even repulsive. But spiders are actually a delicacy in some cultures, particularly in Southeast Asian countries like Cambodia. After all, spiders can be a good source of protein and other nutrients. As the world population continues to grow and the demand for food increases, alternatives like spiders can be more mainstream in the future.
However, not all spiders are edible. Some can even be toxic to humans, so don’t just kill and fry all the spiders you see. There is also the issue of allergies.
7. Spiders bring good luck — according to some cultures
Not a benefit exactly but in some cultures seeing a spider is said to bring good luck. Spiders being bringers of good luck is often linked to their ability to control pest populations. African cultures and Native American cultures, such as the Hopi tribe, have a high regard for spiders as creators and protectors. In China and some parts of Europe, spiders are also a sign of good fortune and prosperity. Spiders are also often depicted with dragons, which are also symbols of good luck and strength.
These are not tangible benefits of spiders to humans. But you can’t deny their cultural influence. And it’s all thanks to them being natural pest controllers and important players in biodiversity and the food chain.
Benefits of Spiders — a recap
There are many myths about spiders, like how they are extremely dangerous because of their venom. These myths just foster fear and hate towards spiders. In reality, spiders are really not that bad. And there are benefits to having spiders around.
Spiders keep the environment in balance and pests in check. They contribute to engineering and medicine. And they influence cultures around the world.